Who resisted and campaigned for abolition?

Tobacco box lid

Probably made in Coalbrookdale, England, 1750-1800
Cast iron

Object number 1922.1085
Given by Mrs Mary Greg

See this object at Manchester Art Gallery This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.

Tobacco box lid

This iron plaque is all that remains of a box that almost certainly once contained slave-grown tobacco. Ironically, it is also one of a number of objects that were made to promote the campaign to abolish slavery. White abolitionists employed an image of a shackled, kneeling black man to shame those involved in the slave trade. This image was reproduced on all sorts of different objects, most famously as a small ceramic medallion by Josiah Wedgwood, himself a vocal abolitionist and founder member of the Slave Emancipation Society.

However, the image of a passive, pleading man failed to recognise the fact that enslaved people repeatedly resisted their oppression with courage, ingenuity and determination. Resistance to slavery ranged from covert acts like working slowly to reduce the plantations' profits, to organised revolts conducted by thousands of men and women. The testimonies and campaigning work of former slaves who became free men and women, such as Olaudah Equiano and Henry 'Box' Brown, also inspired and informed the abolition movement.

This information was provided by curators at Manchester Art Gallery.


You can view responses to the tobacco box lid by going to the interactive artwork Chained Reactions.